Naeem Mohaiemen on Sun, 11 May 2008 23:20:45 +0200 (CEST)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> The Future of the Internet and How To Stop I

Academic says gadgets threaten Internet`s future
Sun, May 11th, 2008 11:59 am BdST
London, May 11 ( - The rise of gadgets like the
iPhone, Blackberry and Xbox threatens to unravel the decades of
innovation that helped to build the Internet, a leading academic has
warned in a new book.

Professor Jonathan Zittrain says the latest must-have devices are
sealed, "sterile" boxes that stifle creativity and turn consumers into
passive users of technology.

Unlike home computers, new Internet-enabled gadgets don't lend
themselves to the sort of tinkering and collaboration that leads to
technological advances, he says.

The mix of gadgets, over-regulation and Internet security fears
could destroy the old system where mainstream technology could be
"influenced, even revolutionized, out of left field".

"I don't want to see a two-tier world where only the experts can
survive ... and the non-experts are stuck between something they don't
understand and something that limits them," Zittrain told Reuters in
an interview.

Zittrain, professor of Internet governance and regulation at the
Oxford Internet Institute, Oxford University, says the Internet's
simple, open architecture is key to its enormous success and also its

Amateur enthusiasts have come up with scores of new ideas by tinkering
with the Internet on home computers. However, hackers have caused huge
disruption by exploiting its loose structure.

Zittrain contrasts one of the first mass-produced home computers, the
Apple II from the 1970s, with Apple's latest gadget, the iPhone. He
says the iPhone is typical of what he calls "tethered appliances".

"They are appliances in that they are easy to use, while not easy to
tinker with," he writes. "They are tethered because it is easy to for
their vendors to change them from afar, long after the devices have
left warehouses and showrooms."

They are a world away from the "generative Internet", a term Zittrain
uses to describe the open, creative, innovative approach that helped
build the Internet.

The rise of viruses and fraud has also led to tighter controls on
PCs, particularly those in schools, universities, offices and public
places, Zittrain says.

People are often blocked from experimenting with shared computers and
their input is severely limited.

There is still time to save the Internet, he believes, although the
answer lies in social rather than technological changes.

Society should resist more regulation and place its trust in the
Internet's users. The success of Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia
written and edited by its readers, shows how self-governance can work.

Internet users should see themselves as "netizens", active
participants in the online world rather than passive consumers.

"The community itself exercises a form of self-restraint and
policing," he said. "You see it in Britain when you try to jump a
queue, you see it on Wikipedia when a page is vandalised.

"The challenge to the technologists is to build technologies to let
people of good faith help without having to devote their lives to it."

* The Future of the Internet and How To Stop It, , is published by Penguin.

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime>  is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info:
#  archive: contact: